How not to build a subfloor

Today’s lesson is on how NOT to build your subfloor! As I mentioned earlier, I had this super great idea that we’d just use really nice oak plywood for our subfloor, do a cool faux hardwood look on it (ala this), and then we wouldn’t have to buy a real floor!

Yeah, there are a couple problems with that idea…

First of all, I wanted nails to hold the plywood down, since they are a lot cooler looking than screws. However, it turns out that nails are really inferior to screws for the purpose of holding plywood down flat. Rob already knew this, but I was sure nails would be fine. They weren’t.

Second, I was being a real bitch about keeping the floor in perfect condition which, as you may expect, is really hard to do during construction. I kind of yelled at my friend a little bit when I messed up a bit of the veneer, and then I felt like an asshole. This was just the first of many problems though — sweat made stains, little splots of wood glue, etc, were impossible to avoid.

So, I’m thinking that I’ll just go ahead and finish the thing, stain it, seal it, etc… but since everything takes longer than it should, I had to go out of town for a few days before I got the chance (which is a story of another debacle for another day). We’re like, ‘Ok, let’s just put the tarp on it. That will totally protect it.”

Did I mention it’s the rainy season here in Florida? I come back from my trip, and we lift up the tarp:

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Rusty nails, delaminated veneer… generally, a shit show. It looked a lot worse than in the pictures before it was able to dry a bit. Apparently these tarp things aren’t really waterproof, and water had pooled and seeped through. It was at this point we decided to rethink everything, and realized this was going to be a true subfloor, not a floor.

We thought about removing these pieces entirely… but after pulling all the nails, we realized they were glued down really well, and they were not going anywhere without some serious damage to the floor framing and insulation… so we decided to keep them and carry on. We put a ton of screws all over to get things flat. Luckily, the damage was mainly concentrated in one area, which is going to end up under the kitchen cabinets. We cut off the super bumpy veneer with a utility knife.


Then we had to figure out how to protect what we had left… we rigged up this super sketchy tarp tent out of some concrete (btw, way harder to mix by hand than they make it sound), buckets, poles, and rope.

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We also put super wood-filler on the part of the plywood where we had removed the veneer (and enjoyed our crazy hot fort for a few hours).

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We also bought water-sealing liquid for the plywood. It says to wait until you have a clear forecast for 24 hours before applying. Since rain was forecasted everyday for the next two weeks, things didn’t look good. But after our trailer sat for a lovely 36 hours under the tent with no rain, we decided to chance the forecast and go ahead and put the sealant on (it did turn the wood a lovely warm color!).

That was last night. As I sit here, there is a huge thunderstorm, rain falling all over our 18-hour-old application of the water-seal. We have such a good sense of timing… I’m taking consolation in the fact that there is so much wind that I’m sure our tent would have blown over anyway, had we been using it. I’m not really sure what the next step it. We literally have no idea what people do to protect their half-finished construction projects from the rain.

So kids, buy exterior grade plywood for your subfloors! And seriously consider some kind of magical inside space to build your house in…



1 Comment

  1. I feel really bad for you. We had just been talking about the expensive subfloor/floor. Not everything you do will be right, but you are going to learn a lot. When you get finished, you should be able to fix anything. I wish you good luck with the rest of your tiny house.

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